“The Tunnel” is finally available to read, download and share online.

Check it out here


Hi Chris,

I received your book!

I was positively surprised when I saw the book: No orcs, dragons or superheroes, but a comic in the line of my favorite comics (When the Wind Blows, Persepolis, The Arrival..) Your metaphor of a tunnel is well found, while not mentioned in the book, the atmosphere of a grey, concrete tunnel, no overview and inert-ness (is that English?..) shows very well the mood and situation of the girl. Also the fact that the comic is “silent” is very well chosen: Lonely people don’t talk that much. The style of drawing is also perfect: Harsh, but friendly where needed.

In short: I like it very much!

Best regards,

Xander Smit
The Netherlands

Here is an article I wrote last year for a local magazine.

What if it doesn’t have any words?
The wordless picture book
by Christopher Malapitan

THE wordless picture book format fundamentally rises above the boundaries of language and literacy. In the words of US Woodcut Historian, David Berona, it represents “not only our different cultures but also our shared humanity”. Without words we’re forced to look closely, concentrate and interpret the image.

In 2009, as part of their research into human trafficking for sexual exploitation, sociologists Yiouli Taki and David Officer contacted me and proposed a comic book that would tell the story of a trafficked woman. It was an innovative idea but faced a significant problem; there are three spoken languages in Cyprus – Greek, English and Turkish. Our budget was unable to cover a trilingual print run. Half-jokingly I suggested, “what if it doesn’t have any words?” Problem solved. My challenge as a visual artist was then to tell a story without words.

Like many other arts fields, such as music, pantomime, ballet and silent film, the wordless picture book has a close relationship with its audience. The absence of words forces a reader to focus on the images. Through pictures, the artist applies the use of icons, stereotypes, symbolism and metaphors to create a language entirely bereft of words. Believe it or not, this form of storytelling has been around as far back as the first cave paintings in 35,000BC.

Fig.1 - The tomb of Menna in Luxor, Egypt

Fig.1 – The tomb of Menna in Luxor, Egypt

The earliest use of the format is believed to be the work of an ancient Egyptian scribe 3,200 years ago on the tomb of Menna in Luxor. The imagery depicts farmers harvesting wheat to pay their taxes (Fig.1). Fast forward to Mexico in 1049AD you’ll find an 11-metre, accordion-folded deerskin filled with images depicting the story of great military and political hero, Lord Eight-Deer ‘Jaguar Claw’. Across the Atlantic in 1066AD, the French produced the grandiose Bayeux tapestry, a 70-metre masterpiece portraying the events of England’s conquest by the Normans.

Arguably the largest and best known wordless story was painted by created by Michelangelo in 1511 and can be found on the Sistine Chapel. In the same period in Europe, various religious and political stories were produced from woodcuts (an image carved into a block of wood, from which a print can be made). The woodcut is the earliest and simplest of the printmaking techniques. It has been in use for centuries as an artistic and commercial medium for spreading ideas to a wide audience.

At the turn of the 20th century in Europe, wordless picture books were pushed into prominence due in part to the Belgian artist Frans Masereel. Like many artists engaged in political and moral issues, Masereel’s woodcut novels depict the human condition and social upheaval of the time. Masereel produced over 50 wordless books in his lifetime but his most popular book is the 1919 Passionate Journey. It is the simple story of one man’s life, love and adventures. With the use of bold, black and white imagery Masereel captured a wide range of emotion and social comment which readers of today are still able to relate to. A novel told in 165 woodcuts, it is considered to be the first graphic novel of its kind and is still in print today.

A book I always return to for inspiration is Shaun Tan’s silent tale The Arrival (Fig.2).

Fig.2 - The Arrival, Sahun Tan, 2006

Fig.2 – The Arrival, Sahun Tan, 2006

It’s the story of a man who leaves his family to find work in a foreign land. The ingenuity of this migration story lies in the method with which the artist engages the reader — giving them the immediate “point-of-view”. The reader joins the protagonist as he tries to make sense of the surrealist world Tan has created. Tan’s beautifully penciled artwork and talent for facial expressions, body language and sense of rhythm creates a pictorial language that communicates various themes such as food, work, communication, loneliness, companionship and happiness. It was this silent masterpiece that influenced me while creating the wordless book I illustrated and co-authored with Yiouli Taki and David Officer The Tunnel (Fig.3).

The unique strength of the wordless picture book is its ability to slip across international boundaries, regardless of language, age and even reading ability. The absence of words liberates creative inhibitions and allows for a plethora of opportunities. The format lets pictures “talk” to an audience and perhaps creates a closer relationship between artist and reader. US psychologist, James J. Gibson, says the pictorial language “gives us a kind of grasp on the rich complexities of the natural environment that words could never do”.

Fig.3 – The Tunnel, Taki, Officer, Malapitan, 2010

Fig.3 – The Tunnel, Taki, Officer, Malapitan, 2010

Thanks to video and wireless technology, we’ve become cultured into becoming more visually thirsty and have acquired the capacity to translate a pictorial language where wordless picture books are to be discovered, not explained.







Christopher Malapitan lives and works in Cyprus. The Tunnel features his first illustrations in a wordless graphic novel. The book was published in 2010 by “INDEX: Research & Dialogue” a non-partisan, non-profit NGO based in Cyprus which conducts quality research and promotes public dialogue. 

For more information you can visit https://heruntoldstory.wordpress.com 

or e-mail Christopher Malapitan at cmalapitan@yahoo.com

The Tunnel is available for free from

ANT COMICS book store in Nicosia,

tel. 22-660384.

10 recommended wordless books

• Frans Masereel. Passionate Journey, 1919

• Lynard Ward. God’s Man, 1929

• Milt Gross. He Done Her Wrong, 1930

• Hendrik Dorgathen. Space Dog, 1993

• Eric Drooker. Ballad Song, 2002

• Thomas Ott. Dead End, 2002

• Peter Kuper. Sticks and Stones, 2004

• Andy Runton. Owly, (3 volumes) 2004-6

• Shaun Tan. The Arrival, 2006

• Jason. Sshhhh!, 2008

Free Comic Day

THE TUNNEL will be available at the ANT COMICS event FREE COMIC BOOK DAY 11 May, 2013, 12pm

The Cyprus Ministry of Education & Culture has announced that “The Tunnel” has been shortlisted for the 2010 Cyprus State Awards of Young Adult / Children’s Literature & Illustration Publications.
See full list here (Greek PDF) 

The book is available for free at ANT COMICS, Nicosia tel.22660384

On the 26th and 27th of November I presented “The Tunnel” at the 3rd annual Malta Comic Con.

Joining me were two artists from Cyprus – Marios Constantinides and Poppy Aristidou.

POLITIS newspaper coverage